Chris Denson's award-winning career has spanned marketing, media, technology integration and product innovation. He runs Innovation Crush, a show that is a combination of The Daily Show and Fast Company - fun, funny, and extremely informative. The Innovation Crush series focuses on amazing people and amazing projects and examines the multiple facets of how innovation works. We have conducted an interview with Chris.
What kind of interviews do you like to conduct?
Luckily, I’m genuinely curious and amazed by what my guests have been able to accomplish in their careers and personal lives. That curiosity naturally leads a lot of Innovation Crush conversations into the “how’s” and “why’s” of how that person ticks and how they process the world. Where did you learn that skill? Were you the same way as a kid? Why did you decide to turn left when everyone else was turning right? Not only that, I love interviews where we’re able to draw parallels between the guests passions –be it art, space, philanthropy, sports, music, etc—and what an audience of curious business minds needs to think about on a day-to-day basis. Also, I’m a pretty silly guy from time to time, so I like guests who like to have fun.
How long have you been building 'Innovation Crush' interview series? How many innovation all-stars interviews have you conducted?
I’ve been doing the show since the end of 2013 and have interviewed close to 150 people. I’ve done interviews with people in Panama, New York, San Francisco, Chile, and my hometown of Detroit to name a few. Guests have come from organizations like NASA, Adidas, Shinola, L’Oreal, Virgin Galactic, Dove, as well as tons of other well-known independent artists and professionals. When we do our job well, it’s a good mix of people you absolutely know, and people you absolutely should know.
What makes you the ideal person to work on this?
It’s kind of like how Anthony Bourdain is a chef and goes all around the world talking to people about food and how it relates to their culture. I’m an innovator by trade, having helped some of the largest companies in the world think through new solutions to new/old problems, and still be rooted in who they are as a brand. As a career-long creative problem solver, I’m always looking for inspiring stories of smart people doing smart things in the world and exploring how the thinking behind those people, projects, and stories can be applied. Often times, I’m conducting my interviews as a student, a peer, a colleague, a fan, and sometimes even a hopeful future collaborator. Plus, I’m kind of a cultural floater, both personally and professionally. I can be just as engaged at a 2Chainz concert as I would be at Comic Con or at the White House Global Entrepreneurship Summit.
What is your motivation in creating the interviews?
Although I my career has seen a lot of big brands and startup creative efforts, I 100% believe the principles of innovation can be applied to ANYTHING in life. Marital problems, a new route to work, gun violence, how to deal with a co-worker and of course bringing your best world-changing ideas to life. I wanted to create something that not only touched on the mechanics of how “Joe” made his invention happen but also offer some depth into who they are as individual. I also wanted to create something that was fun and offered some entertainment value. So we try to have a lot of fun on the show. My jokes don’t always go over well… but every failure is one step closer to success.
Which is the most challenging aspect about conducting interviews for innovators?
In my opinion, every really good interview does two things: 1.) gives the audience a perspective they’ve never heard before… even from a person they’ve heard from 1000 times. And 2.) has the guest discover –and share-- something about themselves that they’ve never realized before. These people are deep thinkers and cultural explorers by nature, so it’s sometimes a challenge be aware of when that window of opportunity shows itself. So I definitely have to be thinking way more about what they’re saying – both verbal and non-verbal—than whatever it is I think I want to say next.
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